While in Buffalo, I visited Old Fort Niagara with my Grandmother and her long-time, live-in boyfriend, Gordon. I hadn’t been to Old Fort Niagara since a field trip in 4th grade, of which I have fairly vivid memories. I believe I even built a popsicle stick replica of the grounds as a school project. It was fascinating to see the Fort again and once again learn about its rich history.
The Fort is located at the mouth of the Niagara River, on the shore of Lake Ontario outside of Youngstown, New York. First held by the indigenous Iroquois Nation, a Fort was erected by the French in the 1720s after nearly 50 year of intense fighting with the natives. Over the course of the next century and a half, it played a pivotal role granting and protecting trade access throughout the Great Lake region. Control of the Fort bounced between the French and British, later serving as an outpost for the American Revolution. The Fort was expanded upon and later used as a training facility during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I. During WWII, the Fort was used as a POW camp for 1,200 German Soldiers captured in North Africa. It was then made into an emergency housing facility for returning US veterans. The US Army finally deactivated the Fort in 1963. According to Wikipedia, the “Bottoms” area is still in operation as a base for the US Coast Guard, making the Fort one of the longest continuously run military bases in the United States, from 1726- present day. An in-depth history is given on the Fort’s website here.
The treasure of Old Fort Niagara is the “French Castle,” erected on the site by the French in 1726, though the Fort had already been established and held by the French for the past 50 years. Originally a trading post, it was later expanded to include defenses against the British. And then, of course, there are the British reenactors! With muskets!
The drawbridge had been recently renovated and was very impressive. The moat would have been the entire Fort’s latrine. Imagine trying to swim in that.
Grandma and a very young, nervous reenactor.
Apparently, the Fort is haunted. The most famous spirit is a headless ghost that supposedly haunts the French Castle.
The French Castle is truly gorgeous– renovated to show the various historical uses it has served over the past 250 years.
If you ever find yourself in the Niagara Falls area, I highly recommend this jewel of a historical site. It’s well worth the trip. On clear, sunny days, you can see Toronto across the Lake. The surrounding waters are also popular for sail-boating. Seeing tiny ships out in the water from the walls of the Fort give further context to how important this area once was for trade– it was truly a gateway to the west!